Overnight Health Care: Trump officials look to give Medicare plans more drug price negotiating power | Anti-abortion groups in standoff with Trump over fetal tissue research | CVS, Aetna merger clears final hurdle

Overnight Health Care: Trump officials look to give Medicare plans more drug price negotiating power | Anti-abortion groups in standoff with Trump over fetal tissue research | CVS, Aetna merger clears final hurdle
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care, where we hope you ate lots of good food and avoided political arguments with your families.

Back to health news! Trump officials want to give Medicare plans leverage to negotiate drug prices, and a look at why anti-abortion groups are angry with the administration.


Trump administration looks to give Medicare plans power over drug negotiations

Insurers that participate in Medicare's prescription drug program would be able to exclude certain drugs if prices rise faster than inflation, under a new proposal from the Trump administration.

The proposal, announced Monday, is aimed at lowering prescription drug costs for seniors by giving Medicare plans leverage in price negotiations.

Currently, private Medicare health plans are required to cover all or "substantially all" drugs in six "protected" classes, like HIV treatments, antidepressants and cancer drugs, regardless of cost.

This gives pharmaceutical companies little incentive to make the drugs affordable, administration officials said.

What's being done: Under the proposal, health plans would be allowed to exclude protected drugs with price increases that are greater than inflation, as well as certain new drug formulations that are not a "significant innovation" over the original product. The proposal could save taxpayers $692 million over a decade, officials said.

The context: The Trump administration has been working to lower prescription drug prices, and much of the proposal was included in Trump's drug pricing blueprint. The administration also adopted a similar policy of negotiation leverage for Medicare Advantage plans to use for Part B.  

Read more here.


Anti-abortion groups in standoff with Trump over fetal tissue research

Anti-abortion groups and President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE are in a rare situation: at odds with each other.

What's the issue? The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is facing pressure from leading anti-abortion groups to cancel more than $100 million in federal funding for research projects that use fetal tissue.

HHS is soliciting feedback from scientists, anti-abortion groups and other stakeholders as it reviews programs that use fetal tissue before making a decision on whether to nix funding.

Anti-abortion groups say the decision should be easy: Eliminate all fetal-tissue funding.

"It shows a very hypocritical, and in my view, anti-science view to continue funding it," said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for March for Life.

He said the funding decision "unfortunately overshadows some of the good stuff this administration is doing. One would hope they'd be consistent with their pro-life message."

Read more here.


Grassley says generic drugs will be the focus as Finance chairman

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyKlobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll Divisions emerge over House drug price bills MORE (R-Iowa), who is taking over chairing the Finance Committee next year, did not detail new efforts on drug pricing when asked Monday, but said he would continue his work to bring cheaper generic drugs to market faster.

"A continuation of what I'd tried to do as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, although those issues are in the Judiciary Committee that I've been working on, but remember Finance has a big role to play in it because protecting the taxpayers through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, if we can accomplish those goals, mostly getting generics on the market faster, it will save the taxpayers a lot of money," he said.

Context: Grassley has shown a willingness to support drug-pricing actions opposed by drug companies.

If you missed it, here's our look at why the drug industry is nervous about Grassley's new role.


CVS to complete Aetna merger after clearing final hurdle

Aetna and CVS cleared their final hurdle to a deal on Monday after New York signed off.

What happens now? The deal is now expected to close Wednesday. Aetna and CVS say that the merger will improve health-care outcomes and reduce costs immediately.

They have plans to turn CVS's 10,000 pharmacies and clinics into community-based sites of care with nurses and other health professionals available to give diagnoses or do lab work.

The merger also means that there will no longer be any independent pharmacy benefit managers in the U.S.

The deal was cleared by the Department of Justice in October, and New York was the last state regulatory approval that the companies needed.

Read more here.


The Hill event

Join The Hill on Wednesday, November 28 for "Preparing for a Treatment: Alzheimer's Diagnosis and Care" featuring Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Hillicon Valley: Google takes heat at privacy hearing | 2020 Dems to debate 'monopoly power' | GOP rips net neutrality bill | Warren throws down gauntlet over big tech | New scrutiny for Trump over AT&T merger Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election MORE (D-Mass.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRepublicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE (R-N.C.). Editor in Chief Bob Cusack will sit down with the headliners to discuss how we prepare for the possibility of a groundbreaking advancement in the treatment of Alzheimer's. RSVP here.


What we're reading

ObamaCare is having a surprisingly good year (Vox)

Can House Democrats really protect ObamaCare? (Politico)


State by state

New head of Maryland's largest health insurer sees broad mandate to improve care and cut costs (Baltimore Sun)

For Doctors who want to provide abortions, employment contracts often tie their hands (NPR)


From The Hill's opinion page

Congress should enhance reproductive health care for women veterans